Camp is away at a book fair this week. I admire his faith in books and writers. ‘They are the keepers and tellers of the stories,’ he said. ‘It’s what distinguishes us from the other life forms, the stories.’
Here are my thoughts on the recent unleashing of the dogs of war in the Ukraine by their alpha dog, the warmonger Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.
The recent, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Putin and his henchmen, will result in death and suffering, destruction and misery, mostly for the Ukrainians but also for the Russians. All for one man’s hubris and delusions of grandeur which is propagated on Russian State TV by his ‘Lipstick Army’: women TV commentators and pseudo journalists like Margo Sacharova, Margarita Simonjan or the Russian spy Anna Chapman.
I’ve read an interesting essay by Andreas Kunz about Putin’s infiltration into western governments, banks and business community and how he has deceived us all. After Yeltsin handed over the power to Putin and his KGB cronies they expanded into the welcoming West with their oil and commodity billions. Bill Browder explains this in ‘Red Notice’, that reads like a thriller and resulted in the Magnitsky Act in 2016 which authorizes the US to sanction those deemed human rights offenders.
Putin always played a zero-sum game. From Georgia to Aleppo, Grozny to Crimea and now Ukraine, from poisoning and jailing his detractors and hacking and interfering in other countries’ politics, he couldn’t lose since nobody really punished him. Nobody paid any attention to the cards on the table as long as they were all making money.
These cold warriors have never gotten over the end of the USSR and in order to restore Russia’s geopolitical power, they took control of the judiciary and the media which soon lost their independence. Opposition members and journalists were silenced and jailed or even murdered and then blamed on the Chechen freedom fighters, as Catherine Belton writes in her meticulously researched 700 page book ‘Putin’s People’.
Since the Russians were doing better, mostly thanks to the price of oil and gas, the new regime had little to fear. Finally, there was an emerging middle-class with enough money to buy a car, build a house and have summer holidays in Turkey. This was so unique in Russian history that they were willing to overlook the pervasive corruption, the arbitrary secret service and the increasing omnipotence of Putin.
According to Belton, the total control by the Kremlin and the retreat of the people into their private spheres led to the loss of democracy that was only delicately emerging after more than 400 years of oppression by tsars and communists. Instead, people were silently content to stay out of politics as long as they were able to live more or less comfortably. And the state left the people alone as long as it remained undisturbed in its exercise of power.
Unlike the KGB and the Party which controlled almost all areas of everyday life, Putin focused on the economics and his state capitalism became an instrument of unrestricted power which allowed them to hoodwink the West. Everyone fell for Putin and his cronies and we shouldn’t be surprised how they hate the West: because it’s all for sale and regards itself superior and better than the East.
We took their money, assuming that Russia would automatically become more democratic through closer economic ties. But Putin wanted to avoid that outcome which is why he took total control of Russian companies and businessmen before they headed west. Whether Gazprom, Rosneft or Abramovitch, they all needed number 1’s -Putin’s – consent. And nobody was less interested in western style liberalization than Putin himself and all those business men became ever more dependent on the Kremlin. As Belton writes: “It is not Russia that changed but the West, as if it had been infected with a virus.” She is referring to all that money for the bankers, consultants, propagandists, lawyers and sports. What the Russian companies stated and declared in their IPO’s didn’t interest anyone, as long as the money flowed in the right direction as through Switzerland. Rivers of Russian money flowed freely through Bank Vontobel and Credit Suisse while canton Zug and Geneva offered the corrupt companies and oligarchs an optimal and welcoming location to conduct their shady and obscure business.
Putin likes to think of himself on an equal pedestal as Tsar Alexander I and Nicholas II or indeed Catherine the Great, will never lose or admit to mistakes because he is infallible and omnipotent. He can do no wrong and therefore never backs down. He fears his own mortality the most and doesn’t trust anybody, not even his fellow KGB conspirators and generals and certainly not anybody in the West. We can only assume that this horrific misadventure in Ukraine will be his downfall and maybe he’ll die of a brain aneurism. But he’s as healthy as an ox and as determined as a bulldog and without a conscience. The question is: how does he sleep?
I’ve just listened to a speech by Arnold Schwarzenegger to the people of Russia. He’s got my vote on this. https://fb.watch/bPQ7mka4WL/